Next book



Provocative, richly detailed reading.

A Syrian-American journalist/civil rights lawyer interweaves narratives about her family with the history of modern Syria.

Malek (A Country Called Amreeka: Arab Roots, American Stories, 2009, etc.) moved to Damascus in the wake of the Arab Spring. Brimming with optimism, she intended to finish restoration work on her grandmother Salma’s house while helping Syria transition from “decades of stifling and corrupt dictatorship.” But by 2013, she had returned to the United States, disillusioned. In this book, the author narrates a multigenerational family saga that begins with a charismatic maternal great-grandfather but focuses mostly on Salma’s life. When a newlywed Salma moved into the house that Malek would finish restoring more than 60 years later, Syria was independent from Ottoman rule and French influence. Like Salma’s life, the country was “more potential and possibility than broken promises.” Both Damascus and Salma’s apartment building were home to people from all walks of Middle Eastern life: “Turks, Kurds, Arabs…all of different classes, some Christian and others Muslim.” By 1970, the year Hafez al-Assad staged the coup that would catapult him into power, Salma lost the rights to her apartment, which Malek’s parents would not be able to reclaim for three decades. By the time they did, Syria had become a place in which the government divided the people from each other through tactics intended to breed fear and distrust. After anti-government, pro-democracy protests and uprisings swept through Tunisia, Egypt, and other parts of the Arab world, Malek decided to return to the place where she had been conceived but from which she and her parents seemed destined to be separated. However, as an independent, unmarried American female, she felt unwelcome. Some of her relatives wanted her to leave because they feared for her safety and their own, while others saw her presence as a way to “curry favor with the [al Assad] regime.” Moving and insightful, Malek’s memoir combines sharp-eyed observations of Syrian politics, only occasionally overdone, with elegiac commentary on home, exile, and a bygone era.

Provocative, richly detailed reading.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-56858-532-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

Next book


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Next book



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview